Billy D. Smith was sentenced in Kenai Superior Court on Thursday to 99 years in jail for the 1994 murders of Harold Enzler and Nancy Bellamy in Nikiski.
Superior Court Judge Elaine Andrews sentenced Smith to 60 years for each of the murders with 15 years suspended for each count, four years for each of two counts of felony tampering with physical evidence and one year for a third evidence tampering charge.
Smith, 42, was convicted by a jury in Anchorage on Feb. 11 of the fatal shooting of Enzler and Bellamy on March 27, 1994. Their bodies were never found.
In an earlier trial, Smith was convicted of the three evidence tampering counts for dismembering the victims' bodies and dumping them in Cook Inlet and dismantling the truck in which they were shot to death, hiding parts in various locations around the Kenai Peninsula.
In sentencing Smith, Andrews said she wanted to give finality to the families of the victims whose loved ones were killed nearly 10 years ago.
She said if she erred in sentencing, she wanted to err on the side of leniency so the sentence would be upheld if appealed.
Smith, who had been brought to Kenai from Cook Inlet Pretrial Facility in Anchorage for sentencing, appeared somewhat relieved at hearing the word "leniency," but stiffened upon hearing Andrews' reasoning.
Enzler's and Bellamy's mothers both listened to the proceedings telephonically and were allowed to address the court prior to sentencing.
"I'd like to thank the court ... and all those involved in bringing this man to justice," said Violet Ruston, Bellamy's mother.
"It's been 10 years and I don't even have a grave to visit," she said before beginning to sob.
"No matter how nice (Smith) appears, he's not to be trusted," said Enzler's mother, Dorothy Enzler.
"He presented himself as our friend and he turned on us and killed our son.
"I believe this man should be put away," she said.
Assistant District Attorney John Wolfe, who was the state prosecutor throughout three Smith trials, also addressed the court telephonically Thursday saying the killings were "a premeditated, execution-style murder."
Wolfe asked for the maximum allowable sentence, which would have been 212 years.
He said Smith completely justified the murders in his mind.
"He has an error in thinking and we need to protect society from him the rest of his life," Wolfe said.
"Isolation should be the primary sentencing goal," Wolfe said.
A mistrial was declared in a first attempt to try Smith in Kenai in 2002, and a jury in Anchorage in October of that year convicted him of the three evidence tampering charges, but could not agree on a verdict on the murder charges.
Responding to Wolfe's recommendation, defense attorney Robert Herz told the court anyone who comes before the court has an error in thinking.
"That does not suggest isolation," Herz said.
"I think 20 or even 30 years isolates someone from the community.
"There's no need for 212 or 213 years," Herz said.
"There is nothing in Mr. Smith's background to suggest he's violent or dangerous. There's no domestic violence, no past girlfriend's have come forward.
"It's simply Hollywood to suggest Mr. Smith was some drug dealer out there shooting up the community," he said.
The defense maintained that the motive for the killings involved a child custody battle between Harold Enzler and Mimi Enzler, Harold's ex-wife and the girlfriend of Smith.
"Love resonates in (Smith's) life," Herz said.
"Love was the driving force here, even if it was misguided."
Herz said the sentence should not be close to 200 years or even 100.
"A sentence of 35 years provides isolation and meets all the sentencing goals," Herz said.
After hearing all the opinions on a sentence, Andrews told Smith he was now allowed to speak on his own behalf.
"I heard the victims' families, and if I had killed Harold and Nancy, they'd have a right to feel this way," Smith said.
"I did not kill them. Dennis Johnson killed these people," he said.
"I was induced by (Alaska State) Troopers to admit to it."
Dennis "Ray J" Johnson and Bruce Brown had initially been named as codefendants in the crime. They eventually were convicted with helping Smith cover up the evidence.
Without victims' bodies, without a murder weapon and without any DNA evidence, the state's case against Smith was based primarily on his confession to the crime while being held in an Anchorage Jail on an unrelated drug charge.
After claiming the confession was false as he had done throughout the trial Smith began submitting a rash of legal motions to the court alleging errors the trial judge made and claiming he was misrepresented by his attorney.
Andrews told him the motions needed to be filed through his attorney on appeal.
"Sentencing will happen today. Sentencing is the conclusion of the trial. The next pleadings come to the Appellate Court," Andrews said.
After sentencing, Herz said he would assist Smith with a notice of appeal, but that Smith's defense was being turned over to the Public Defender's office.
"The main point of the appeal will be whether the confessions were legally obtained within Mr. Smith's constitutional rights," Herz said.
"My primary concern was that the defendant never be released on the public," Wolfe said about Andrews' sentence.
"Her sentence would protect the public from Mr. Smith for the rest of his life," he said.
In Alaska, each murder count conviction carries a minimum 20-year jail term before a defendant is eligible for parole. Smith also would be required to serve at least one-third of the other nine years.
If he were approved for parole on each count, he could be released after serving 43 years. He would be 85.
Judge Jonathan H. Link presided over the Smith trials. Link died after a brief illness in March and Andrews, a retired Anchorage Superior Court judge, was assigned the case for sentencing.
"I also thought the judge (Link) did an excellent job at trial," Wolfe said.
"If he erred at all, it also was on Smith's side.
"I think we're in a good position for appeal."
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